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Monroe Housing Authority: Community Development Authority is not needed
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MONROE - Members of the Monroe Housing Authority walked away from a recent joint meeting with the Redevelopment Authority concerned and questioning why the city is considering a Community Development Authority.

The meeting on Aug. 30 was a chance for Housing Authority Executive Director Cindy Landsberg and assistant Pat Ormond to air out grievances, but the pair felt they were met with people unwilling to listen.

"We're concerned they're not aware of why we disagree," Landsberg said. "We have been here 17 years and we've been independent of the city."

Landsberg said she began revitalization of the Monroe Housing Authority's Churchill Woods Apartments a decade ago. For the last six years, she has had help from Ormond. Paul Mudgett serves as a maintenance director, though Ormond said his duties can vary from repairs to cleaning and anything asked of him.

Landsberg said the Redevelopment Authority would be better used to deal with housing problems outside of the Housing Authority's job, which is managing the apartment building of 90 residents.

"They're jeopardizing our authority here," Ormond said. "We're not against city development, but it can be done another way."

In order for the city to establish a CDA, which is an authority that would be dedicated to a number of city housing issues, both the Housing Authority and Redevelopment Authority would have to be dissolved. That would create a commission of seven designated to address various types of housing issues throughout the city, from creating more living space to area revitalization.

Monroe Common Council would make the final decision whether to create a CDA, which would dissolve the city's current authorities.

Funding for the Housing Authority is determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The money the Housing Authority receives to operate is approved by a contract which specifies the responsibilities of the authority.

Wisconsin Public Housing Program Coordinator John Finger informed Landsberg in an email that the funding provided to the Housing Authority can only be used for tasks outlined within the contract.

"If they do come to a decision to move forward the very simple answer/response to the city is that any commitment or use of your PH funds is restricted," Finger wrote. "(Use of funds) has to be approved by HUD as outlined in the Annual Contributions Contract."

Finger went on to explain that no other Housing Authority in the state has been allowed to use housing funding outside of the developments outlined within the ACC.

A CDA was posed as an option by Dan Lindstrom, planning and community development manager for planning company Vierbicher Associates, Inc. based in Madison. Lindstrom worked to conduct a housing survey throughout the last year identifying areas of housing options needs in Monroe.

Mayor Louis Armstrong requested the joint meeting between the Housing Authority and the Redevelopment Authority to order to discuss the feasibility of a CDA.

Landsberg said that in a number of conversations with Finger, she was told the Monroe Housing Authority is too small for grant funding and that Section 8 funding is frozen for up to two years. Finger also said going forward with a CDA is no benefit to either the Housing Authority or the Redevelopment Authority.

Concerns from the Housing Authority include worries about a new commissioner instructed to deal with both city housing development and the management of Churchill Woods. Landsberg said she did not see how one person could juggle so many tasks with dedication, and that would lower the quality of life for Churchill Woods residents.

"They could change a lot," Landsberg said. "We have concerns that they have not investigated as much as they should have and I'm afraid if someone new comes in here, it won't be the same."

But City Administrator Phil Rath, who also serves on the Redevelopment Authority, said a CDA would deal with a number of topics, mostly those identified in the recently refined Monroe Comprehensive Plan, separately from the city.

"It would be sort of a quasi-independent group," Rath said. "A CDA provides the opportunity for some things outside of the scope of the city government."

Rath added that all ideas are a preliminary step and more consideration would be required before action is taken. He said there are other options, like the choice to "breathe life into the" Redevelopment Authority, which by his count has had two meetings in the last six years.

While the Housing Authority is important, Rath said, the group is limited in its scope and the city needs to address a multitude of housing-related issues, which a CDA could evaluate while also forming a subcommittee to oversee Monroe Public Housing.